1. Sort your materials and 'tag' them
Think about each document – what would you expect to find in each one? What kind of information does each seem to have? What are your initial impressions? Make your sticky note for the document – and be clear and candid. Remember these are for yourself and don't hold back – say it if a document seems jargon laden and overall, quite pointless.
Also, don't be bumped by electronic documents: all you need to do is stick in a luridly coloured text box on the first page. And voilá, you're sorted and eco-responsible.
2. Read each document thoroughly and read in passes
To read in passes is to read in a very focused, almost blinkered way in multiple rounds. You determine what you're reading for in a particular round and pay attention only from that perspective. So, for example, the first time, you could pick out what seems most important in each document. Then, you could read again to pick out what was surprising or unexpected. You might want to do a third pass that picks out only statistics or supporting facts.
Liberal use of highlighters (again, as the feature within an electronic document or a physical highlighter) is strongly recommended during this step.
In each pass, make judgments and estimations: note which document had contradictions, incomplete or poor information, totally clear insights, etc. You could also make notes or a mind map of your thoughts.
3. Pick out the connections between documents
After reading through all documents in step 2, for this step, pick out pieces of information across documents that seem connected. Do your judgments about the documents also change when you consider these interconnections? Is there any document you think it might be worth revisiting to clarify if there is a connection?
4. Consciously and deliberately, consolidate your understanding
This is your intellectual quality check. See if you're using all the interconnected and key pieces properly to build your understanding. If there is a large amount of information, we might ignore some of it inadvertently. That's why it's good to check those highlighted portions and those interconnections to be very sure.
A typical trap is also to fixate on the scrap that validates our viewpoint, or the first scrap we encounter about a topic, and dismiss subsequent information that we come across in later documents. This is the step to consciously 'fix' our thinking and check our understanding.
There you go – a methodical, organised way to handle masses of documents!
And that brings us to the end of this edition of the Buzz. Do feel free to spread the goodness! – You can also follow us on: